Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Ball is Being Dropped Somewhere

In response to A Failure in Communication, schnitzelbank wrote:

I don't disagree that having family time is important, and a very healing time for this family. But pulling your kid out of school early in the school year for a vacation might not be good timing (thanks for clarifying the school days. You had said in an earlier post, that you were gone for 10).

But obviously this IS important to y'all, as witnessed by all the posts about Danielle's school work.

To be honest, Danielle's schoolwork is only of moderate importance to me at this point. It's clear from her state-mandated testing that she's functioning far below proficiency in mathematics and English.  Until this trip, we've always been very diligent of making sure that Danielle had as close to perfect attendance as possible.  Unless she was really sick, we sent her to school.

At this point, though, it's absolutely clear that she isn't going to college.  I have serious doubt in my mind as to whether or not she would even be able to manage some type of trade school. She has no fire, no ambition, and no interests, so I really have no desire to spend my time fighting over her schoolwork. I hope that she will put out a minimum effort, turn in her assignments, and try, but I can't force her to do those things, and I honestly don't expect her to do really well, even if she puts forth the effort.

It's clear from her test scores that she simply can't.

Another question: what did Danielle do then, during the time you (and the other kids) were working?

Danielle did what she usually does when she doesn't have anything to do. She poked at the birds, sat in a camp chair and stared off into space, and complained (only a little) that she was bored.  At one point she did borrow our friends' battery-powered kiddie car, and she drove around in it.  The car is designed for pre-schoolers, but she's so small, she can actually sit in it and drive around.

Moving forward...

1) I would question the teachers immediately, if they fail to send home a packet for a pre-arranged absence. Clearly, there isn't "nothing" happening during those four days, those should be accounted for somehow.

This is one of the most frustrating aspects to Danielle's program. I often feel like we are dropping our kid into a black hole. Communication goes in (messages from us to the teachers) but nothing comes back out. It's very irritating. Worse, it puts Danielle in a position of being able to triangulate and manipulate the adults, which she has done repeatedly.  We've had several meetings with the school about this, but nothing changes.  Short of hiring a lawyer (which we cannot afford to do) I don't think much will change.

2) Is it possible Danielle completed the work (as witnessed by the aides) and failed to turn it in? I have students do this all the time. It's all part of that self-fulfilled prophecy of failure. Failure is easier than success for kids that seem to thrive on chaos and have not experienced much academic success (for a whole myriad of reasons)

It's certainly possible. At this point, Danielle's grade is still a solid C, and we can see a number of assignments that haven't been turned in that have come due this past week. Danielle claims she's done all the work, but the school's grading system says that the assignments haven't been turned in. I'm not going to harass the teachers or the classroom aides about it. This is Danielle's problem to own. She has to learn to manage her own life.

3) Could you get an extra set of textbooks for home? This would bypass the whole "forgot my book" excuse. Books are here and there. I don't see this strategy as helicopter parenting, rather, putting the scaffolding in place that many teenagers need. Clearly Danielle is not ready to be on her own at 18. Heck, most adolescents aren't ready to be on their own at 18. She needs some extra supports in place.

In the end, I'm sure you want to give her every opportunity to be successful. It sounds like you are so very frustrated. I'm sorry for your troubles.

Students aren't allowed to take textbooks home as a general rule, and we aren't in the position of being able to buy Danielle her own set. This is a problem that she is simply going to have to learn to manage on her own, or she won't get passing marks.

Anyway, it's clear from the fact that Danielle hasn't turned in all her assignments that the ball is being dropped somewhere between her special homeroom class and her elective class. Whether Danielle isn't turning in the assignments, the teacher is "losing" them, or the work simply was never done and we aren't being told the truth, it doesn't matter. Danielle is nearly 16 years old, and she's got to learn to manage this stuff on her own.

I can't help her with it. I'm not going to helicopter my ass down to the school and make sure she takes notes in class, or that she writes down all her assignments. I'm not going to jump up and down on her case and nag her into submission. Either she'll do the work or she won't. If her grade drops below a passing score, we'll start meting out consequences, but beyond that there isn't going to be a lot of discussion.

We just aren't prepared for the level of discord that would have to happen in order for us to nag Danielle into doing everything she is required to do. And, really, there's no guarantee that she'll do everything that is expected of her anyway.

Although it may be clear to everyone that Danielle won't be ready to live on her own when she turns 18, that's probably what is going to happen.  She's made it clear that she will move out when she becomes of age so that she doesn't have to follow what she perceives as our dreadful, stinkin', unreasonable rules.  Frankly, we are okay with that plan, because we are pretty tired of some of the behaviors we see at home.  Although things are much better post-medication, Danielle makes a lot of really poor choices and does a lot of things that we would rather not be in our home.  If she chooses to move out on her 18th birthday, we won't try to stop her.  In fact, we'd likely encourage that move.

I do want my kid to succeed, but there comes a point where she has to start doing the things that will make her successful.  I can show her the school's grading system and the assignments she's missed, but beyond that, I can't force her to complete them.  I can't help her with her schoolwork, because when I do, she expects me to hand her all the answers.  I don't know if it's laziness or just complete lack of ability, but she just has to find a way to muddle through all of this on her own.

This isn't what I had expected, or hoped for, but it is what it is.  Somehow, someday, Danielle's got to learn how to manage on her own.


  1. I have been reading this blog for a long time and I am pretty sure your daughter will not learn to manage her life, period. I can also guess given her issues and abilities she will become a mom of a kid that she will not be able to parent and then this entire story will play itself out for yet another generation. I am an adoptive mom and have been a foster mom and I see this all to often. It is a really sad state of affairs.

  2. I work as a sub teacher, mostly in special ed (a lot of kids like yours). I heard a SPED teacher once refer to this cycle as job security. Sad but true...it's amazing how many IEP's start with "Student was born to a mother who admits drinking and using drugs and having no prenatal care..." It sucks.


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